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X79 Express: P67, Is That You?

Intel Core i7-3960X Review: Sandy Bridge-E And X79 Express
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The Patsburg chipset (code name for the silicon on which X79 Express centres), as Intel originally planned it, was to have as many as 14 ports of storage connectivity. Six of them were SATA-based (2 x 6 Gb/s and 4 x 3 Gb/s), while as many as eight emanated from a separate, integrated storage controller. In its most decked-out form, that controller would have offered eight SAS 6 Gb/s ports. It also would have borrowed four of the processor’s 40 third-gen PCI Express lanes to create an x4 link dedicated to storage traffic.

Apparently, we’ll still see that souped-up rendition of Patsburg in 2012. But the company either couldn’t or didn’t enable it in X79 Express, leaving the chipset with the same two 6 Gb/s and four 3 Gb/s SATA ports we’ve seen for almost a year on the P67 Express chipset.

When you start looking around at the rest of X79’s features, you realize that, while the platform bears a new name, it’s pretty much P67 Express. You get the same 14 USB 2.0 ports, the same integrated gigabit Ethernet MAC, eight lanes of second-gen PCI Express, and HD Audio.

Now, Intel does include a driver called Rapid Storage Technology Enterprise 3.0, which is designed to facilitate the additional data protection servers and workstations will need once the more advanced versions of Patsburg emerge. For all of our testing, though, Microsoft’s native AHCI drivers are fine.

As a result, all of the changes inherent to the Sandy Bridge-E/X79 platform, at least on the desktop, are attributable to the processor. We’ll have to wait until next year for a more advanced platform—which motherboard vendors don’t seem to be sure what to do with yet, by the way.

I’m frankly not too concerned, though. Do I really need SAS support? No. Do I even need more than six SATA ports? Not really. More than anything, it’s a shame that Intel wasn’t able to incorporate native USB 3.0 support.

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